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TO MOST IN THE HAIR INDUSTRY, WORKING 9-5 ISN'T THE WAY TO MAKE A LIVING. MICHAEL SANTILLANES OF LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA IS CERTAINLY NO DIFFERENT.
Michael, like many young Americans, was stuck working a job in a restaurant that he hated. He had worked his way up to management and was confronted with the reality of the corporate world. His ethos to life is “keep it clean and simple”. Working in upper management didn’t fit the bill.
His wife had just finished cosmetology school and suggested he look into barbering, a profession that Michael hadn’t considered until he was in need of a trim. “I had no interest in men’s hair but figured that I’d rather have something under my belt and if I didn’t like it, I’d at least be qualified to have a job!” Michael remembers.
The next step was finding a barber school, a simple step for most, however, Michael did not have a high school diploma, which in the state of California at the time, limited his choices. He spoke to multiple schools but none of them were interested in taking a student without a diploma.
With all hope lost, Michael began to look further afield. A brand new school had opened in the valley area of California, a 1.5 hour drive from his house. The school agreed to accept his application if he could pass a simple exam, which he did… and Michael’s journey began.
By the time of graduation, Michael felt an overwhelming amount of passion towards men’s hair. This is when he started planning a future. “I asked everyone where they were going to work once they graduated, everybody had a similar story… “a friend’s shop”. I was shocked nobody thought about working near the beach, I thought “I’ve never lived in Santa Monica but it’d be cool to work near the beach with a simple easy living vibe”. Michael tells us.
That’s what he did… he graduated, drove to Santa Monica and parked his car. With his license in hand, he walked through the city to find a barbershop or salon that would employ him. He found a salon that recommended a barbershop, but was greeted with another shop owner exclaiming “our friend has a shop round the corner, try him”. Growing tired of the monotony of visiting multiple shops, he tried Pacific Barbershop before heading home. However, the shop owners took to him and he left that day with an offer of employment.
“I was there for 1 year, with the goal to build a clientele and create my own shop, but I needed to understand the cost to open a shop in the area that I wanted. So, I decided to move on to Razorbacks Barbershop in Long Beach where I remain to this day” Michael explains.
Michael laughs… “To clarify, there’s a huge difference between passion and obsession… I’m obsessed!”.
It was when at Razorbacks and working for Pedro Zermeno, that Michael was exposed to the wonders of Imperial Barber Products. Michael was also given a master class in professionalism.
“Pedro taught me how to dress, how to greet clients, how to master a cut, and most importantly how to provide our customers with an experience” Michael says.
Michael didn’t even need to bring his own clientele, as Razorbacks was such a busy shop, that he was fully booked on his first day, and continues to be today!
Aside from cutting in Razorbacks, Michael holds the prestigious roles of Educator and Ambassador for Imperial Barber Products.
“Pedro started Imperial and knew a lot of people in and out of the industry. He reached out to me asking if I had ever done a men’s cutting class and if I could hold a men’s cutting class for his friends. That’s where my fire started for education. This was about 4 ½ years ago.” Michael explains.
Nowadays, Michael tailors educational classes for salons across California and delivers bespoke Imperial education. These courses are bespoke for Imperial Barber Products and focus on “less tools, more techniques”. Bringing back his ethos of simple and clean.
I asked Michael why he is working with Imperial, when the market is saturated with product companies.
“The quality of the product.” Michael answered. “I take everything I do extremely seriously. Education, classes, everything is quality work. When I started using Imperial, I knew the quality was there. The marketing, the brand, it is so clean and simple. It represented me in a way. Simple, quality and clean. That’s why I love it so much. I built a relationship after I got into Razorbacks. Pedro and Scott have always helped me to reach my goals. I haven’t even got a high school diploma but now I’m working with Hanzo Shears and with Imperial Barber Products!”.
It’s clear that Michael thinks a lot of the product and the owners that have helped him grow in his career. He tipped the Classic Pomade, Freeform Cream and Matte Paste as three amazing products that every barber needs in their toolbox.
You can see more of Michael’s work on Instagram @michaelbarbering or check him out if you are in Long Beach, California. You may see him skating along the coastline on his way to work one morning!
Keep an eye out on future BarberEvo issues for more articles featuring Imperial Barber Products!
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